Bluesfest management say ticket holders will now have options and a time frame for refunds, after April’s event was cancelled, three weeks out from the festival, by a Public Health (COVID-19 Public Events) Order.
Gatherings of more than 500 people were banned in March, forcing the entertainment industry to close, which continues to impact heavily upon the entire sector.
Festival director, Peter Noble OAM, says while he sympathises with stallholders who want their fees refunded, he has offered to roll over the fees they paid for the 2020 event for next year, ‘which gives up a year’s stallholder income for Bluesfest 2021 for our company’.
Mr Noble told Echonetdaily, ‘48 Stalls have confirmed their participation in Bluesfest 2021’.
A number of stallholders, who wished to remain anonymous, contacted Echonetdaily, frustrated they were not offered a fee refund.
‘I’ve always acted honourably,’ Mr Noble said. ‘As a premier event, we have suffered like all other festivals. We all need support. The offer of a free fee rollover is also beyond what is legally required.
‘We had spent vast sums of money to have a successful trading environment for our 2020 event, from which we all intended to benefit, including our stallholders. Sadly it was not to be’.
He says, unlike many other entertainment related businesses impacted by COVID-19, Bluesfest has not made any employees redundant. ‘Bluesfest staff members continue to work, albeit on reduced hours, in order to ensure the future of Bluesfest for when the time comes that the festival is allowed to present again.
‘We spent a large sum to create and provide the conditions for stallholders to trade,’ he said.
Mr Noble added that the stallholder terms and conditions stipulate that Bluesfest has no liability or obligation to refund their deposit or stall fees if a stallholder cannot trade because of a force majeure event, which includes an order to cancel by government.
Stallholders also had the option to insure themselves, Mr Noble said. ‘It would seem most didn’t, unfortunately’.
With Bluesfest preparations almost complete, and money invested into making a successful event already spent, management were forced to call off the world renowned event just three weeks before it was to be held when the pandemic hit Australian shores.
The 31 year festival was touting one of its biggest lineups ever for 2020, including the Dave Matthews Band, George Benson, Kool and the Gang, and John Mayall.
By attracting tens of thousands of local, interstate and overseas punters, it is also one of the region’s largest economic drawcards.
A 2019 report by Lawrence Consulting claims that last year’s event poured a total of over $159.1 million into the NSW economy. The report estimated a contribution to gross regional product (GRP) of $49.8 million in Byron Shire, and $95.7 million in the Northern Rivers.
A statement on the Bluesfest website says, ‘In the week commencing June 15, ticket holders will be contacted directly with information on your options for 2021, as well as the refund process.
‘Bluesfest will provide refunds to those who select that option, and the process for this will be outlined at that time. At this time, we will offer existing ticket holders an exclusive pre-sale offer to purchase early bird tickets for Bluesfest 2021, before they go on-sale to the general public late June.
‘We will find a way to continue and present in 2021. I am a veteran; having been in this incredible industry since the ’60s, I have never experienced such a dire situation for the performing arts.
‘As a premier event, we need to present another Bluesfest not only for ourselves, but also for the entire entertainment industry to see that there will be a brighter day, and that as an industry we will come back from this’.